Helping companies tell what they're doing – visually


Places to see: Charlotte 7th Street Public Market

As first glance, Charlotte’s 7th Street Public Market looks like any other farmer’s market offering locally grown food. Then one notices the bakery confections, and the coffee bar and the market’s many other offerings that make it so much more.

Still in its infancy after just opening in December 2011, the market is intended to be a business incubator where food entrepreneurs and culinary artisans can set up shop and hope their offerings take root.

It’s definitely worth a visit. Here are just a few of the images we created while checking out the market earlier this month. Even though the market, located at 224 E. 7th Street, isn’t in our daily stomping grounds, we’ll definitely stop by again as the harvest season hits full force. Enjoy the photos. The market was like visual eye candy and a photographer’s dream. Plus it’s yet another cool addition to the long list of cool things to see and do in Charlotte NC.

(Thanks to operations manager Jacqueline Venner Senske for being a model in the environmental portrait above.)

Coffee creations at the Not Just Coffee shop located in the market.

Ashlee Cuddy of Bond Street Wines was a good sport allowing me to create an environmental portrait of her also.

Peter Herr of Herr Fresh Flowers (above).

Michael LaVecchia of the Meat & Fish Co. has a clever business model with his delivery-by-bike service.

Erica Baez-Hortob is the food artist and owner of Cloud 9 Confections and Bakery.


Charlotte Taste of the Nation 2012: Great food – Great cause

More than 60 restaurants, chefs, mixologists and sponsors came together last week (April 11, 2012) to raise funds for and awareness of childhood hunger. Held at the Wells Fargo Atrium in uptown Charlotte, the annual event is a great chance to see — and taste — the culinary arts taking place around Charlotte.

Congratulations to the winners of the Best of Charlotte awards, sponsored by the American Culinary Federation.

Best Cold Dish:

– Amelie’s French Bakery – Peanut Butter Petit Four
– Fern Restaurant – Sweet Potato Meringue

Best Hot Dish:

– Enso Asian Bistro & Sushi Bar – Wagyu Taco
– Mimosa Grill – Benton’s County Ham Wrapped Shrimp

Best Table Display:

– Gallery at Ballantyne Hotel
– e2 emeril’s eatery

Moon over Duke Energy Tower in Charlotte NC

Full moon rising over Duke Energy Tower in Charlotte NC

Driving home from an evening photo assignment the other day, I had the good fortune of spotting the full moon rising over the Charlotte skyline. Taking a photo of just the moon by itself is never fun, so I zig-zagged through the city streets looking for a building to line it up with. The Duke Energy Tower made the perfect partner.

In 2009, I was able to photograph the full moon rising over Bank of America tower. This series shows the path of the moon around the tower that night. While I had happened upon the moon rising over the Duke Energy Tower the other day, I’d purposefully set out to photograph the moon against Bank of America tower after hearing meteorologists talking about how large the moon would seem that night.

Photo of full moon over Bank of America tower in Charlotte NC

Photo of full moon above Bank of America tower in Charlotte NC

Photo of Bank of America tower and full moon in Charlotte NC

It was very dramatic. We turned the photo into a postcard and it’s been one of our best sellers.

Photographing the moon against a skyline is challenging. Still, if you think through the likely path the moon will follow (I’ll often scout the path a few nights before the shoot), position yourself correctly, and then stay patient, you might be rewarded with a few good images. I can’t count the number of times I scouted the perfect location to capture the setting sun or a full moon rising against the Charlotte skyline (or a lighthouse, or interesting building), only to have a cloud float into place and kill the shot. Technology and PhotoShop could solve this dilemma, but I want my images to be real (with adjustments only for color saturation).

So if you happen to check out the links to my Charlotte skyline photos (below) and wonder about the vibrant colors of the sky in many of the images, yes, the sky really was brilliant pink or cobalt blue or Easter-egg purple on the days I took the photos. Often, during the 45 minutes or so as the sun sets (or rises) the color of the sky will transform itself many times, like in these photos, taken on December 15, 2010:

Charlotte skyline photo illustrating sky color transformation as sun sets over Charlotte NC

Charlotte skyline color transformation by sun

Setting sun transforms the color of the sky over Charlotte NC

Photo of Charlotte skyline changing vibrancy as sun sets

Charlotte NC skyline photo of sky color transformation at dusk

Photo: Charlotte NC skyline at dusk

Photography of Charlotte NC skyline after the sun as set.

The next image wasn’t from the photo shoot that night, but it shows what I’m talking about when the sky turns purple over Charlotte.

Purple sky over Charlotte NC skyline with Bank of America tower in photo

A few years ago, I set a goal of photographing the Charlotte skyline from every possible angle. I identified at least a dozen locations to shoot from, and have been knocking them off my list. Don’t the following images show how Charlotte has become one of the most-dynamic Southern cities?

This link goes to a gallery of my newest skyline images:

A larger collection of skyline photos are housed in this gallery:

If you know of angles on the Charlotte skyline that I haven’t already taken photos from, please let me know. If I can make some nice photos from an angle you suggest, I’ll thank you with some prints of the photos I create.

And yes, if anyone is wondering, we do sell framed art of our images. We do the custom framing ourselves. Just call or email for information.

Finally, I’ll end this blog entry with some of my favorite Charlotte skyline images. I like how the sun turned the buildings gold for just a few minutes, completely transforming the look of downtown Charlotte. I took these photos in December 2011.

Photo of Duke Energy Tower in Charlotte NC at sunset.

Photo of Duke Energy Tower in Charlotte NC at sunset.

Photo of the Charlotte NC skyline during a brilliant / golden sunset.

Rock-like religion: Charlotte’s Elevation Church

Church goers of all ages are making Charlotte’s Elevation Church one of the fastest-growing churches in the United States. We stopped by recently to see what all the excitement was about. Excitement indeed.

Hearing the buzz about Elevation, I made arrangements to visit and photograph the Blakeney location. As the photos below show, it was a lot like attending a religious rock concert with a conservative theological message. This wasn’t like any church I’ve visited or photographed previously. These images are from a recent Friday night service.

According to the church’s website, Elevation Church began in 2006 in the atrium of Providence High School. About 121 people were in attendance that day. Today, the church has six locations around Charlotte; 10,000 people attend regularly.

Steven Furtick (above) is the energetic paster of Elevation Church.

Creatives: Get involved with Flashes of Hope


Flashes of Hope multimedia video from Joshua Stilwell on Vimeo.

Several times each year, photographers and stylists volunteer their time and talents bringing bright moments to families and children battling with cancer. The cause: Flashes of Hope, a non-profit organization dedicated to creating powerful, uplifting portraits of children fighting cancer and other life-threatening illnesses. View the Flashes of Hope site.

I got involved with the Charlotte NC chapter several years ago, and it continues to be one of the most-rewarding ways I can give back. It’s so different from the corporate photography I’m usually doing. The Queen City is fortunate to have a large number of Charlotte photographers who volunteer their time for the cause. We’re aided by volunteer teams of stylists (hair stylists, makeup artists, etc.) and Charlotte organizer Kelly Patterson. I believe Flashes of Hope operates in about 40 cities right now, and it’s hoping to expand. So colleagues, please consider getting involved.

During our March 2012 Flashes of Hope photo shoot at Charlotte’s Presbyterian Hospital, multimedia photographer Josh Stilwell videoed the shoots and created the multimedia show that’s at the top of this blog. The goal is to help creatives and prospective donors understand the workings and benefits of Flashes of Hope so they’ll get involved and will help the program grow.

Enjoy Josh’s hard work and I hope you like some of the portraits I had the pleasure of being able to create during our most-recent photo shoot.

PHOTO SHOOT: Filmmaker George Cochran

It’s hard for a photographer not to be intimidated when sent to photograph a visual media giant. So I’ll admit I was a bit apprehensive when Our State magazine asked me to create some photographic portraits of Central Piedmont Community College professor George Cochran, founder of CPCC’s Film and Video program.

Read his bio for yourself from the CPCC site (

George M. Cochran has enjoyed a successful career in advertising, marketing, and visual media in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, working with agencies such as J. Walter Thompson, Young & Rubicam, Saatchi & Saatchi, and many others. He created and produced thousands of iconic images in commercial and as campaigns for Stouffer’s Food, Guerlain Perfume, Johnnie Walker Scotch, Max Factor, IBM, Mobile/Exxon, Sony and for 17 years, Miller Beer. Among his many awards are four Clio nominations, Art Director’s Awards, AIGA, for national commercials produced for Quaker Oats, Coors Beer, Betty Crocker, Jell-O, Wheaties, and National Child Help USA.

 Since moving to charlotte 10 years ago, he has consulted with large and small local companies, seeking communication strategies in print, TV, radio, and digital media through his company, Cochran Enterprises. By George’s own statement, his greatest accomplishment has been giving back, as founding director of the CPCC Film and Video Program. In this capacity, he finds an outlet, not just for his unique knowledge of the industry, but also for his belief in the importance of personal vision and artistic integrity through education. He is a board member of Channel 21 and created Image Tree for his Art of Production students as a conduit for their diverse productions ranging from a documentary on the Catawba River to their current documentary production of the ecological positives of the newly constructed Duke Energy Center, here in Charlotte. He is also a member of Ronnie Bryant’s Presidents Board of the Charlotte Regional Partnership.

 He is an alumnus of RIT; has lectured at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Fordham University’s Graduate School, and The Smithsonian Institute; and is contributing editor to the Focal Encyclopedia of Photography.

So do you blame me for heading into the shoot nervously? Turns out I shouldn’t have worried at all. Cochran not only was a great subject to photograph, he was a great conversationalist and really down to earth. His natural style and camera-friendly look made my job really easy.

Like the filmmaker shadow behind him in the photo at the top? I thought it would be a creative way to quickly show what Cochran does. That’s actually my assistant, Josh, posing to create the shadow for me.

Here are a few other images to show what we came up with for the magazine.

See what I mean about his great face? Eye candy for the camera.

CPCC filmmaking class in action (below)

See what I mean about being great fun?

Museum photography for Discovery Place, Charlotte NC

Charlotte’s Discovery Place science museum hired us to create new marketing images of its many offerings. We spent a Saturday this month photographing the cool hands-on exhibits Discovery Place offers. The goal was to show actual visitors enjoying themselves throughout the museum. Discovery Place asked us to apply our photojournalistic approach order to create photographic images that tell visual stories about what visitors to Discovery Place can expect to experience.

A few friends showed up to help during the shoot — in case we needed families/kids to help fill out some of the scenes. Turns out the museum was so popular that Saturday (and so many visitors were agreeable to letting us take their photos and sign model releases) that we hardly needed our stand ins after all.

We photographed the museum from open until close (about 10 hours) and Discovery Place’s marketing team walked away with about 80 production-ready images.

Here are a few of the scenes:

I’m not a snake lover. In fact, they really freak me out. So I wasn’t thrilled when one of our first shoots of the day was of this monster (top photo). Isaac, the guy holding the snake, was a good sport in the photos and clearly didn’t have the snake aversion that I do. Isaac was equally great with the iguana (below).

Parents and kids both enjoyed getting to touch sea creatures in Discovery Place’s touch tank.

As a photographer, it’s always great getting to photograph behind-the-scenes actions, like this scuba diver cleaning the glass on the inside of the aquariums.

This overhead shot (below) was a bit challenging to get… especially since we took it in the afternoon when the museum was pretty crowded. We got the image by mounting a camera to a pole, and then lifting the camera about 15 feet in the air. I focused and fired the camera using my computer. We also strategically placed four flashes throughout the scene to help brighten dark areas and highlight visitors’ faces.

This museum scene is particularly difficult to photograph since, without that overhead context, there is no reason to think the photo was taken in a science museum.

Here is the same scene closer in (had to stand on a chair to get this angle). Having the various strobes still strategically placed around the area really helps the camera capture the features on everyone’s faces. The strobes also helped brighten the entire space and allow the colors throughout the scene really pop. (Thanks to Quinn and Kendall, the two teenage “models” in front who jumped in to help in this scene).

I like the pure delight on her face as she plays in Discovery Place’s water area.